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Unbelievably Simple Number Sense Activities To Build One More One Less Thinking

Last week, we talked about how number sense activities don’t need to be a completely separate entity from your standards-based math instruction while specifically discussing spatial relationships. This week we will look at how the idea of one more and one less (an important concept that students with number sense use flexibly!) can be built into your instruction across a variety of grades and subjects.

One More and One Less Across Elementary Math

In kindergarten, your students are becoming acclimated with the idea that when we are counting forward we are referring to increasingly larger amounts and when we count backward we are referring to amounts getting smaller and smaller.

As grade levels increase, your students are STILL developing their fluency with one more and one less…. but they are talking about UNITS rather than individual ones.

Kindergarten- One More/One Less
1st Grade- A “Ten” More or a “Ten” Less
2nd Grade- A “Hundred” More or a “Hundred” Less
3rd Grade – A “Unit Fraction” More or a “Unit Fraction” Less
4th Grade- A “Thousand, Ten Thousand, Hundred Thousand” or “Million” More or less
5th Grade- A “Tenth, Hundredth or Thousandth” More or Less 

We don’t need to take time away from your grade level goals to build number sense. These number concepts are BUILT-IN to your standards!

Using a concrete, representational, abstract approach, you can move your students to the abstract level and help them to build fluency around these concepts.

Spinner Number Sense Activity

A simple spinner game can help your students (at all levels!) to develop fluency with this skill.

Your student will need a game board (included in the free resource below), a spinner labeled “one more” and “one less” and a cube or counter. Ask your students to start at the center of the game board. They will then move their counter and state aloud how they moved. For example, in the kindergarten version of the game, students would state “5, one more is 6” or “5, one less is 4”. Your students will continue spinning, moving and speaking aloud until they reach either the upper or lower limit of the board.

This game can be played by students at a variety of grade levels using differentiated game boards and spinners (grab for free below).

You may consider playing in a small group allowing each student, in turn, to spin the spinner, move the counter and then asking the whole group to state the sentence frame aloud together.

Partner Game Number Sense Activity 

This activity (full 1st grade unit found here) allows your students to manipulate units to practice 1 and 10 more and less to gain fluency in this skill. Playing with a partner, player one selects a number and indicates whether they will be adding or subtracting units from that number. Player 2 uses mental math to determine the resulting number while player 1 models the addition or subtraction using a hands-on material such as counters, base ten blocks or place value disks. Players alternate being the number chooser/builder and being the player to use mental math.

Through repetitions of this activity, your students will become more fluent with the skill of adding or subtracting a single unit.

Each of these activities boosts number sense around your own grade-level standards but imagine the quick connections your students will be able to make when you ask them to generalize this idea in future grade levels. Because the activity focuses on fluency with one more and one less unit your students will have a stronger number sense around similar concepts even as numbers get larger!

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